Small Leaved Lime Tree Facts and Information

  • Latin Name: Tilia cordata
  • Native Words: Old Irish () Scots Gaelic () Old English () Welsh () eastern Celtic ()
  • Ogham Sign:
  • Height when Mature: 25-30m
  • Height after 10 years: 5m
Native Lime Tree Leaves

Small Leaved Lime Botanical Description:

There are 3 native lime trees. Tilia Cordata is the small leaved lime. There is the Large leaved Lime, Tilia Platyphyllos, but the one we regularly see in the British landscape, Common Lime, Tilia Vulgaris, is a hybrid of the other two.

Small leaved lime has striking crimson buds in winter. The leaves are heart shaped and have a tapered tip glossy dark green above, pale yellow beneath. As the name suggests the leaves are small, about 4-7cm long and 3-5 cm broad long. The white flowers, which emerge in July are clustered and held above the leaves. The seeds are held within small round seed pod which are attached to the branches by stalks. These pods often fall near the tree with the stalk still attached which is a key way to identify limes. However, is distinctive in being the only lime in which the fruits stand above the stem; on all other limes they hang down.

Lime has a noticeable look; the branches often incline up, only to sharply descend at an acute angle. The bark smooth and grey to begin with becomes fissured with age.


Small Leaved Lime Natural History and Ancient Wisdom:

Once, the commonest trees in the British Isles, Small leaved Lime is now uncommon and single specimens are scattered in woodland across lowland England. It was overtaken by oak for 2 reasons. Firstly, lime tended to grow on drier soils which were cleared first for agriculture, whereas oak will thrive in damper ground. Secondly, and most importantly oak was valued much more than lime for its utility so that its seedlings were protected, whereas limes were not; pigs, cattle and deer would graze new lime saplings, but not oak.

The Canterbury Lime tree, one of cricket’s most idiosyncratic symbols stands at the old Dover Rd side of the ground. Growing long before cricket was first played, the first lime died in 2005 but a new one has just been planted in a grand ceremony!

Limewood does not warp and is often used for keys and pianos and organs. The wood is soft and even-grained, ideal for carving and was used by one of England's best-known carvers, Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721).

Native Lime Tree Sapling

Lime Place Names in the UK:

  • Lyndhurst (Hampshire) ‘lime wood’
  • Lympsham (Somerset) ‘pool where lime trees grew’
  • Limpole (Northamptonshire) pool where lime trees grew’
  • Lindridge (Worcestershire) ‘lime ridge’
  • Great Limber & Little Limber two villages named after a ‘Lime tree hill’


Small Leaved Lime Wildlife Rating:

The blossom from the small leaved lime tree produces a rich, sweet nectar to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Many other insects feed on the sticky honeydew produced by aphids and the leaves are a fantastic food source for the lime hawk-moth caterpillar.


Small Leaved Lime Good Points / Bad Points:

A very smart appearance combined with slow growth means the Small Leaved Lime is suitable for the medium and large garden.

Lime is one of the trees which respond best to pollarding so can be made even more compact, and avenues of pollards are often grown.

The leaves attract woolly aphids which drop a sticky secretion called honeydew which will cover cars parked underneath them.


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